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NCM Motorsports Park at dawn is a peaceful, serene place to be. The dew beads off of the raised curbs as birds hop around in the infield grass, hunting down their morning breakfast while in the paddock, trailers start to open up and vehicles start to appear that don't look pedestrian in the least. It's like the title sequence of a Gran Turismo video game in real time: the fire suit draped over the track-only rubber, the competitors sharing notes as they sip their first cup of coffee, the machine sitting in the rays of the morning sun, cold and quiet. Track officials make their way out to the outlook posts, with the flags in hand. As the air warms up and the sun gets higher in the sky, the activity picks up: wrenches clank, fuel gets funneled into tanks, drivers suit up and before you know it, engines fire off and cars start roaming the paddock, warming up before it's time to queue up for their chance at the 3.15-mile Grand circuit layout, complete with a nearly half-mile straight and turns like "Deception" and "The Sinkhole". By the time the air is starting to warm up, it's time to release the first cars out onto the track and with that, Gridlife TrackBattle 2021 was off and running.
For everybody who has found the curving backroad and hit it with enthusiasm, or has spent hours playing video games like Forza or Gran Turismo during the winter months but hasn't seen anything like that in person, this is the event for you. While there were a fleet of specially-prepared cars racing the Gridlife Touring Cup class (GLTC), there are classes for time attack that saw a field of cars ranging from a 1991 Ford Festiva through a late-model Toyota Supra that looked like it had escaped a racing series and was hiding out among a sea of Miatas, Corvettes and S2000s. This isn't a fun drive event...the drivers are competing against both each other and against the clock. All bets were off once the racing started: howling BMWs and roaring Camaros would chase each other past the onramp to Interstate 65 on the fast back section of the track, while Miatas, Civics and S2000s diced it out in the corners. You could see a Tesla Model 3 picking a careful line and putting it's torque down in a sweeper, or you could watch as a winged Fox-body Mustang proceeded to outright maul every corner in a brazen show of force, rocketing past racers in a purely professional manner.
There are many events still open on the 2021 season, so if you're interested, be sure to check out the program at www.grid.life/events.